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Picked Up

by ejh239

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Archive List > British Army

Contributed by 
People in story: 
WG Poynor (Bill)
Location of story: 
HMS Sikh, Mediterranean
Background to story: 
Royal Navy
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
05 October 2005

Picked Up

Eventually, large invasion barges could be seen pushing off from the shore to pick us up. It was well into the late morning now and I reckon we must have been in the water about three hours. When one of the barges reached us, we had to climb up a short metal ladder on the side of the craft. When it came to my turn, I climbed up and stepped onto the deck. The German sailor there had a dagger in his hand, only to cut the life belts clear! We were directed along a short passageway. When we started walking, there was another crewmember there, who gave us all a pat on the back. A bit further along, there was another chap with a bottle of stuff. It looked like Creme de Menthe and tasted like it. He gave us all a tot of this, obviously to take away the chill. After a few steps we were on the top deck of the craft. Another German told us to take off our overalls and lay them out in the sun to dry them. We were just sitting on the open deck there. They came along and gave us blankets and cigarettes and a hot coffee drink. We were feeling a lot better after this. I remember looking around on the water, seeing the English and Egyptian currency notes torn up. We'd had instructions to do this before we left the ship because the Germans would have used those for their own fifth column around Egypt and Israel.

Eventually, we reached the beach and they dropped the front of the craft down. We walked over the beach and were directed to a building very near, which was Tobruk House. One of the first chaps I was there was Cecil. We just looked and then pointed at each other and said almost in unison: "I thought you'd copped it when that shell landed between us". I'm not ashamed to say we hugged each other. Incidentally, he is still alive today.

We were all lined up inside there for interrogation. When it came to my turn, I went forward. This Italian army officer spoke very good English of course, asked my name and I said "William Poynor". He looked down his typewritten list and asked "William George Poynor?". I said, "Yes", which shows just how much they knew what was going on.

They searched me then. I had just the money belt and the overalls and the crucifix. He took it out and looked at it, looked at me and gave me that back. He kept the cap badge. I suppose he couldn't understand why I'd taken that; I must have had some strange reason for that. This time, I asked him, "Would you mind if I asked you a question". He said "No", so I said, "About the battle of Sirte, outside the Gulf" and I mentioned the date. .. "Well, you want to remember," he said, "that our fleet hadn't been out for a long time. The crew got seasick and couldn't man the guns properly and were a danger to the whole fleet. In order to avoid any unnecessary damage, they had returned to port." So I thought, "Well, thank God for the bad weather".

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